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This site presents an overview of genealogical research and genetic testing that identify links in a family tree. I am a fifth-generation direct descendant of John and Elizabeth Kilby, 18th-century settlers in the British Colony of Virginia. I grew up on farmlands in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains close to the lands of my forebears. Some sons and daughters of John and Elizabeth remained in Virginia while other sons relocated to the Carolinas and then beyond. Many of my Kilby ancestors of European descent enslaved men, women, and children of African descent. Their living descendants share in this research.


Paternal — KILBY (Kilbey, Kilbee, Kelby), Aylor, Brown, Carpenter, Hawkins, Hite, Hitt, Lillard, Reynolds, Sparks, Strother, Thornhill, Towles, Wallace, Yowell, and others

Maternal — MITCHELL, Boothe, Chapline, Collier, Creech, Fulghen, Haskins, Jones, Kelly, Olinger, Owsley, Plummer, and Sturgill.


  • John Kilby (c.1710-1772) of Culpeper County, British Colony of Virginia

    John Kilby and wife Elizabeth settled in Virginia, and by 1734 they had begun their family of six sons and four daughters. In 1747 John obtained a patent for four hundred acres of Northern Neck Proprietary land from Thomas Lord Fairfax. Years after his death in 1772, Elizabeth followed two sons as they migrated to Wilkes County, North Carolina. Another son migrated to Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Three sons remained in Virginia. Subsequent generations would move to Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and other southern and western states. A portion of the John Kilby family tree is found here.

  • African Americans enslaved by John Kilby descendants

    Tax and probate records reveal that John Kilby and some of his descendants and spouses from the early 1770s to 1865 enslaved men, women, and children of African descent, mostly singular or few in numbers. Significantly, church records and probate and other court records reveal names and basic descriptions of enslaved persons. We are fortunate to have been able to identify by name three generations of enslaved persons—the later generation taking Kilby as their surname after emancipation—and their descendants, confirmed through genetic testing and extensive genealogical research. The first six generations of this family are depicted in this tree.

    Family lines of African-heritage Kilbys extend beyond Virginia to cities in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York. Stories of extraordinary strength, resilience, determination, and accomplishment enrich this family history. The youngest living descendants can now know about their ancestors going back eight or more generations! Researching and sharing genealogical information with living descendants is a current primary focus.

  • Kilbys of Dorchester County, British Colony of Maryland and their descendants in Nansemond County, Virginia

    Descendants of Thomas Kilby (c.1715-1774) settled in and became prominent citizens of nineteenth-century Hanover and Nansemond Counties, Virginia. Genealogical and genetic research is being conducted to attempt to connect this family branch with John Kilby of Culpeper County.

  • Kilbys of Liberia, West Africa 

    Randal, a manumitted-by-will man enslaved by Joseph Bunch, adopted the surname Kilby upon emigrating to Liberia, West Africa in 1854. John Richardson Kilby of Nansemond County, Virginia was the Bunch estate attorney and associate of Randal for several years after he emigrated. Existent letters written by Randal to John Richardson Kilby tell of his voyage and early years in Africa. A large number of Kilbys living in Liberia today may have descended from Randal Kilby. This separate branch is being researched to provide the Kilbys of Liberia with evidence of their ancestral roots that may lead back to Virginia.


Some John Kilby descendants have taken DNA tests. Males taking the Y-DNA test and participating in the Kilby Surname FamilyTree DNA Project fall into two primary male haplogroups, R-M269 and I-M253, both with European origins. Those descendants of John Kilby that tested are of high-level haplogroup R-M269. I have completed FTDNA's Big Y-700 test, which places me further out on the haplogroup branch R-Y18962. Autosomal DNA testing among Kilbys and Kilby descendants has added previously undiscovered family links. Testing has also confirmed the biological relationship between European American and African American Kilbys.


book cover

Gourdvine Black and White is the history, biography, and genealogy of one family divided into two by race and the time in which they lived. For four generations, European-descent Kilbys enslaved men, women, and children in the Gourdvine Neck region of Culpeper and Rappahannock counties of  Virginia. This is the true story of Malinda Kilby, widow of  Thomas Kilby and inheritor of his enslaved property. It is also the story of three generations of enslaved African Americans, the youngest generation finding freedom after emancipation and surviving pervasive racial discrimination to build lives of self-respect and accomplishment. Sarah, Juliet Ann, Simon, John, James, young Sarah, and Bettie — these are names of people, human beings, who lived under the cloak of non-personhood, subject to the will of White owners ready to rob their labor and deny them human identity. This book describe the facts, events, and character of Kilbys, both Black and White, and attempts to return humanity to those altogether forgotten through time and prejudice.

Purchase Gourdvine Black and White at Amazon or your favorite bookseller. All author's proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Kilby Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, which benefits living descendants of those persons enslaved by John Kilby's descendants.

ISBN: 9781736374801 (hardback), 9781736374818 (softback)

Gourdvine Black and White is the recipient of the 2021 International AAGHS Book Award for Nonfiction Regional Genealogy and the 2022 Phillis Wheatley Book Award for Nonfiction Genealogical Research


“Half the truth is often a great lie.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Writers who commit themselves to only writing hopeful things are committing themselves to the ahistorical and the mythical.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” —Ida B. Wells


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